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Manhwa / Vagrant Soldier Ares

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Other manhwa by Kum-Chel Ryu:
Vagrant Soldier Ares (떠돌이 용병 아레스) is a Korean manhwa written and drawn by Kum-chel Ryu. It is a war epic that spans 26 volumes. The story centers around young swordsman Ares and takes place in a world similar to Ancient Rome.

The world of Ares is similar to Ancient Rome and shares important names with that history. The main characters belong to or ally with the central country of Chronos. Daraak Empire and the Radnik Alliance flank Chronos' western border, Isiris flanks its southern border, Chronos' ally, Silonica, flanks its eastern border, and the island nation of Minos is off its northern coast.

At the story's onset, a young warrior named Ares meets Mikael when both enlist with Temple Mercenaries, the most respected soldiers-for-hire in Chronos. Their comrades Baroona and Gohue are also soldiers for Temple Mercenaries. In their first mission, they put down a band of bandits that have been terrorizing a remote village.

The king of Chronos has neglected his duties, and neighboring states contemplate invasion. Temple Mercenaries are hired by Chronosian general Icarus for a pre-emptive attack against Minos in cooperation with their ally, Silonica. There, the four meet Ariadne, Ares´s future girlfriend, and her bodyguard, the young, able Helena. During the invasion, Ares protects Ariadne, winning the respect of the initially antagonistic Helena. Mikael and Baroona attract the attention of Icarus when Mikael defeats General Kentaro, a champion of Minos. The Temple Mercenaries succeed in capturing the Minoian king and force him to stop attacking Chronos and General Icarus is hailed as a hero.


However this is the beginning, there are forces both inside and outside of Chronos, that want to conquer that kingdom for various reasons.

Ares has examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: There doesn't seem to be a sword or knife in this series that can't be casually stuck in a rock until later.
  • Action Survivor: Gohue. The poor guy repeatedly finds himself in the most dangerous situations and somehow makes it out in once piece even when people much more skilled than him are dropping like flies left and right.
  • Anachronism Stew: This features cigarettes, t-shirts, and sneakers in a medieval setting. Although this can be justified since Ares doesn't take place on Earth.
    • It also features a mishmash of weapons and armor worthy of an average Tabletop RPG campaign. Swords, flails, polearms and more from all over Europe and Asia and from across centuries are used side-by-side in the same armies, with a number of pure fantasy weapons for good measure.
  • Anyone Can Die: Michael, Cygnus, Linda, Sandra etc...characters were introduced only to be killed in a later date.
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  • Armor Is Useless: Only very rarely subverted, and even more rarely for more than a panel. Most characters don't even bother wearing anything more protective than a hoodie and a helmet for much of the series, and the helmets tend to get knocked off, shattered, sliced, or thrown in every fight (partially because none of the main characters seem to know how to wear one). Either you have superhuman agility, or you're getting cut in half.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Ares and Baruna, Baruna and Douglas
  • Berserk Button: Mortally wounding one of Ares' Companions acts as this, but threatening Ariadne puts him straight into a Tranquil Fury.
  • BFS: Shion's Ionix. The sheath alone weighs thirty kilograms (around sixty-six pounds), and he uses the sheathed weapon to bludgeon unworthy opponents. It's so heavy that when he finally draws it, he does so by embedding it in a stone wall.
  • Bishōnen: Most of the main male cast
  • Blood Knight: Kirberos, Kirus
    • Ares. Whenever he sees someone really strong, he just wants to fight. He'll even ignore the war for the chance to face off with a single worthy opponent.
  • Book Ends: The last chapter has Mickey from Jagsen village showing up to apply to the Tample Mercenaries just as Ares, Michael, and Baruna did at the start of the series.
  • The Caligula: The previous king of Chronos and half brother of Ares
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: You won't see magic being thrown around this manhwa, but you will see characters shatter swords, catch and eat arrows, swing around hundred-pound swords or giant polearms with one hand, leap ten feet in the air to avoid an attack, and shrug off having their skull used to shatter a brick wall. Practically every major character is Made of Iron (until they're not) and a Lightning Bruiser to boot.
  • Combat by Champion: Many major battles tend to start with this.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Ares.
  • Darker and Edgier: This series is a decidedly more bloody take on the shounen genre, with the good-natured Idiot Hero having no qualms about killing fleeing or wounded opponents.
  • Dies Wide Open: The rule rather than the exception. Of note are Cygnus, Robin, and Michael.
  • Distressed Damsel: Silver Wolf Kaiser's granddaughter.
  • Dressing as the Enemy
  • Easy Amnesia: Ares, who may or may not remember his past life as Sebastian.
  • Exotic Weapon Supremacy: Baruna, who's master of a weapon that looks like two kunai connected by a steel cable. Which is unsurprising, since he was formerly a slave gladiator.
    • Rikion favors a weapon consisting of a large dagger resembling a Roman pugio with a chain similar to half of a manriki-gusari attached to the hilt.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Michael.
    • Granted, before this he repeatedly kills potential POWs, comments on how instead of slaughtering everyone in a fortress, it's smarter to leave a few survivors to spread the tale, and kills an exhausted Cygnus after his fight with Ares.
  • Faking the Dead: Icarus, in order to deceive Prince Michael and the Isiris army.
  • Hollywood Tactics: "The enemy is here! Let's leave our defensive stronghold and meet them on the open plain!"
    • Granted, one of the instances of this was coupled with Combat by Champion, the series's staple. The other was against orders, and the soldiers only did it because their enemies, realizing that the defenders wouldn't leave their stronghold, went around slaughtering civilians.
  • Idiot Hero: Ares, albeit, a darker variety of this trope than the usual shonen fare.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Baruna, with his rope daggers.
    • Several others show up, like the bandit leader with his BFS, his second-in-command's pendulum-shaped scythes, the No-Name Knights captain with his claw-gauntlets, and more.
  • Master Swordsman: There are several, Kiron, Kirberos, Kirus, and The Silver Wolf Kaiser.
  • Meaningful Name: Plenty
    • Ares, the Greek War God. To be fair he took the name that Chiron associated with "the strongest man in the world", since it was his goal to become the strongest.
      • His original name, Sebastian, the Patron Saint of Soldiers
    • Michael, the Archangel and War Prince of Heaven.
    • Varuna, the pre-Vedic Hindu god of lord of the cosmos, keeper of divine order and bringer of rain.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Many, used in a comedic fashion in Ares Ch.35.
    Assassin Leader: (After Ares has already killed half his men) From whom did you learn the ways of the sword that are so strong?
    Ares: Chiron!
    Assassin Leader: (Jumps out window)
  • Oral Fixation: Michael and Icarus always seem to have something in their mouths.
  • The Quiet One: Michael
    • Robin is this too, seeing as he's literally a mute.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Anyone who's from the Red Eye Clan is a seasoned killer.
    • To be fair, this is only because in the past, after refusing to give up its peaceful ways except to defend themselves, the Red-Eyed clan was massacred and now continues to be hunted up until the modern day.
  • Red Shirt Army: If you're not a named character, you're pretty much guaranteed to be slaughtered by the bucketful. On second thought, even if you ARE a named character, you're not immune to this.
  • Retired Badass: Kiron, he would like to live a peaceful life but he keeps getting challengers who want to beat him.
  • Royal Blood: Ares is the bastard son of a previous king
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: 101's entire story, he overdoses on pills to save Linda and dies soon after, then Rikion comes in and kills her anyways for shits and giggles.
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: Kiron is this seeing he forced Ares to take on and kill any challengers that wanted to kill Kiron.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Icarus and Baruna.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Michael, as the story goes on, it's just gets worse.
    • Rikion has turned into this recently, massacring entire villages as payback for Isirisans did to his own country.
  • The Speechless: Robin, while he never speaks, the readers can see his thoughts.
  • The Stoic: Ares, Michael, Baruna, and Cygnus - basically every important male character - spends the majority of every fight scene with a dead-eyed, slack-faced stare.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Kirberos is supposed to be spelled as "Kerberos", referring to the three headed dog that guards the entry into Hades.
    • Baruna/Baroona/Varuna
    • The Tample/Temple Mercenaries
    • and Kiron should be Chiron, The centaur who trained heroes from Greek Myth
  • Underestimating Badassery: Ares, Baruna and Michael are constantly underestimated by various gangs/thugs/villains because they look young. Said opponents are often quickly put in their place.
  • Wham Episode: Michael wipes out the Tample Mercenaries as his first step to conquering Chronos.